Responding to the mood of the moment is critical to retail success, say Oxford academics

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Retail experts available to comment on festive retail issues from Black Friday discounts to huggable products

With changing shopping habits, heightened consumer expectations, continued economic uncertainty, and low real wage rates, UK retailers this Christmas will find it a tough challenge to match 2013’s festive spending figure of £91bn.

Academics from Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, say that, in today’s increasingly multi-channel, instant-gratification environment, the key to success in all areas will be understanding consumers’ fluctuating states of mind and being able to respond quickly and flexibly.

Retail experts Jonathan Reynolds, Rhonda Hadi, and Nancy Puccinelli, based at Saïd Business School, are available to comment on all aspects of the retail sector during the Christmas shopping season.

Jonathan Reynolds, Academic Director of the Oxford Institute of Retail Management and Associate Professor in Retail Marketing, can talk about the impact of e-commerce and the growth of new, hybrid shopping models such as “click and collect”. Can smaller retailers capitalise on this trend to bring more shoppers back to the high street? What are the challenges facing home delivery companies, approaching Christmas? He can also talk about new developments such as Black Friday, a day of heavy discounting that originated in the US and was designed to bring consumers back to the shops after Thanksgiving. What is its impact in the UK and does it really contribute to increasing retail spending?

Nancy Puccinelli, Associate Professor in Marketing, can discuss recent research into the importance of “fit” between marketing messages and consumers’ prevailing mood when shopping. She says that subtle changes to improve this “fit” can increase the likelihood that customers will buy by as much as 186%. “Funnily enough, at Christmas shops often do not need to offer price promotions, multi-buys or discounts as incentives to get us to buy,” she said. “In fact, these can have the opposite effect by undermining the celebratory mood of Christmas shoppers and actually reduce sales.”

Puccinelli’s research has also looked at the effects of the retail environment in encouraging spending. “We have found that overdoing the Christmas cheer with flashing bright lights and piping fast-paced music such as Jingle Bells into stores puts shoppers under greater pressure,” said Puccinelli. “Less harsh lighting, pleasant smells and gentler seasonal music such as The Nutcracker are far more likely to put us in the mood for spending.”

Other research by Puccinelli has focused on the ability of shop assistants to read customers’ non-verbal signals and understand when they are open to chatting and “upselling” and when they don’t want to be bothered. Interestingly, the research also shows that managers are not usually as good at recognising these signals, and may believe that staff who do not chat to the customers are providing poor service.

Rhonda Hadi, Associate Professor of Marketing, has recently published research which looks at how people are more inclined to buy products where they have an emotional and sensory bond with them. Retailers can encourage sales by enabling customers to touch, squeeze, or hug products. She said: “This research shows that under the right conditions, affectionate gestures can lead people to grow more attached to products. It also suggests that incorporating more humanlike characteristics could further encourage this bonding, leading to better sales. This insight presents an opportunity for marketers and manufacturers but a particular challenge for online retailers who will need to find innovative ways to for consumers to interact with products digitally to engender the same level of connection. It seems the traditional means of entering a shop and being able to interact with a product may still have some advantages in this digital age.”

To speak with any of these academics, or for further information about their research, please contact:

Clare Fisher, Head of Public Relations, Saïd Business School
Mobile: +44 (0) 7912 771090; Tel: 01865 288968

Jonaid Jilani, Press Officer, Saïd Business School
Tel: +44 (0)1865 614678
Email: or

Notes for Editors

1. About Jonathan Reynolds

2. About Rhonda Hadi

3. About Nancy Puccinelli

4. About Saïd Business School

Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford blends the best of new and old. We are a vibrant and innovative business school, but yet deeply embedded in an 800 year old world-class university. We create programmes and ideas that have global impact. We educate people for successful business careers, and as a community seek to tackle world-scale problems. We deliver cutting-edge programmes and ground-breaking research that transform individuals, organisations, business practice, and society. We seek to be a world-class business school community, embedded in a world-class University, tackling world-scale problems.

In the Financial Times European Business School ranking (Dec 2013) Saïd is ranked 12th. It is ranked 14th worldwide in the FT’s combined ranking of Executive Education programmes (May 2014) and 23rd in the world in the FT ranking of MBA programmes (Jan 2014). The MBA is ranked 5th in Businessweek’s full time MBA ranking outside the USA (Nov 2012) and is ranked 5th among the top non-US Business Schools by Forbes magazine (Sep 2013). The Executive MBA is ranked 23rd worldwide in the FT’s ranking of EMBAs (Oct 2013). The Oxford MSc in Financial Economics is ranked 7th in the world in the FT ranking of Masters in Finance programmes (Jun 2014). In the UK university league tables it is ranked first of all UK universities for undergraduate business and management in The Guardian (Jun 2013) and has ranked first in ten of the last eleven years in The Times (Sept 2014). For more information, see


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Kate Richards
University of Oxford
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